Navigating the dynamic landscape of college admissions in 2024 demands careful planning, given the intricacies of the application process. Before delving into the checklist of application requirements—ranging from essays and letters of recommendation to transcripts—it’s essential to establish and set well-defined college admissions goals. Here, we outline four crucial steps to ensure success in the initial months of 2024.

1. Define Your Intended Major

While many students are still exploring their interests, it is advisable to select an intended major in the early months of 2024. Understanding the academic majors offered by universities and delving into the corresponding coursework provides valuable insights into college academic life.

Choosing a major early sets the foundation for academic and extracurricular priorities throughout the high school years. It’s crucial to align high school course selections and performance with the requirements of the intended major. For instance, aspiring English majors should aim for consistent excellence in high school English courses.

If deciding on a major proves challenging, consider utilizing assessments like the Highlands Ability Battery. These assessments evaluate natural talents and help match students with majors and college environments that best suit their abilities.

Opting for an undecided major is acceptable, but it may pose challenges in writing essays that inquire about academic interests. Alternatively, prioritize colleges that encourage academic exploration and provide flexibility in changing majors.

Choosing a major significantly influences academic and extracurricular decisions. Course selections, extracurricular priorities, and the choice of colleges are all influenced by this crucial decision.

2. Strategize College Visits and Fair Attendance

In the early months of the year, strategically plan virtual or in-person college visits. Supplement these visits by connecting with representatives, including current students, faculty, professors, and administrators.

Numerous online and offline resources facilitate college visits, such as the National Association of College Admissions Counseling’s National Fairs. Additional organizations, like College Fairs Online, StriveScan, and YouVisit, sponsor fairs and visits. Regional NACAC Affiliates, such as NACAC Affiliates for Pennsylvania and WACAC for the West Coast, organize local fair events.

Consider participating in fly-in programs that aim to recruit underrepresented communities if eligible.

3. Subscribe and Engage

Colleges employ customer relationship management tools and artificial intelligence in their recruitment efforts. To demonstrate interest, subscribe to colleges’ email lists and actively engage with their communications. Even if unsure about whether the college tracks engagement, subscribing is a proactive step.

Tools like Naviance and Niche allow you to express interest in specific colleges. Signing up for a Common App account early, before the historical August 1 opening, enables you to receive application updates.

Utilize social media cautiously. While following and engaging with colleges’ posts can be beneficial, be mindful of your online presence, as colleges may track prospective applicants through CRMs.

4. Choose Summer Opportunities Strategically

In the early months of 2024, purposefully select summer activities that contribute to your admissions candidacy. Each activity should align with your academic interests, enhance knowledge, provide work experience, or expose you to a career field of interest.

Distinguishing applicants often showcase intellectual interests through research. Many top colleges prioritize research, as reflected in their Carnegie Classification framework and direct requests for research supplements. Students can engage in both free and paid research programs or independently pursue a research project.

Building a compelling college candidacy begins with setting the right goals. By undertaking these steps in the initial months of 2024, you or your student will be well-positioned for success in the college application process.

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